Grading the team.
Defending the Pass: B
Defending the Run: A
Notes: A healthy Osi Umenyiora will lead a backfield penetrating defensive line as deep as the offense will take them.
If rookie receivers Hakeem Nicks and Ramsees Barden can be reliable targets for Eli Manning, watch out!
Q: Why are the Giants ranked so low?
A: The defensive line is improved and very formidable—that goes without saying—but the defensive backfield is unproven and still shaky at the least as it was in 2008.
But that is not the problem. The Giants started out the season with wide receiver Plaxico Burress getting double teamed every single play, because he was otherwise unstoppable.
That opened up the running for Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2008 and is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If they left Burress in single coverage he gained 20-30 yards and Eli would just flip him the ball.
So take a safety out of the box cover Plaxico and then the Giants ran their 260-plus pound bruiser through the middle behind a monster offensive line and pummeled the poor linebackers who needed the help from the safety too.
No Plaxico equals no safety over the top and that puts another man in the box and the running game was not nearly as effective.
The first three quarters of the season the Giants were 11-1. After Plaxico pulled his hamstring and later shot himself in the leg the Giants fourth quarter of the 2008 season collapsed as they went 1-3 dropping three of their last four to 12-4 and lost in their first playoff game.
I don't want to Giant-bash. I'm not saying the Giants are not a great team. I have titled them a power house. I could feel comfortable rating them as high as three or four before the season starts if the rookie receivers Hakeem Nicks and or Ramsees Barden can sync up with Eli Manning and force a safety out of the box in front of the offensive line.
Conversely, if the receivers are not gelling with Eli, they could drop down the ranks if they start like they finished in 2008.
At this point I feel good about ranking the Giants at No. 7.
I stand by this pick for now.